Every year, California’s 58 counties adopt local budgets that provide a framework and funding for critical public services and systems — from health care and safety net services to elections and the justice system.
But county budgets are about more than dollars and cents.
A county budget expresses our values and priorities as residents of that county and as Californians. At its best, a county budget should reflect our collective efforts to expand opportunities, promote well-being, and improve the lives of Californians who are denied the chance to share in our state’s wealth and who deserve the dignity and support to lead thriving lives.
Because county budgets touch so many services and our everyday lives, it is critical for Californians to understand and participate in the annual county budget process to ensure that county leaders are making the strategic choices needed to allow every Californian — from different races, backgrounds, and places — to thrive and share in our state’s economic and social life.
This guide sheds light on county budgets and the county budget process with the goal of giving Californians the tools they need to effectively engage local decision makers and advocate for fair and just policy choices.
- County budgets are about more than dollars and cents.
- County and state budgets are inherently intertwined.
- Counties’ ability to raise revenue to support local services is constrained.
- Both state law and local practices shape the county budget process.
- The county budget process is cyclical, with decisions made throughout the year.
State Budget Terms Defined
What’s the difference between a trailer bill and a policy bill? A surplus and an operating surplus? Special funds and the General Fund? And what exactly is a “Budget Bill Jr.”? Our Glossary of State Budget Terms answers that and more.